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Wah Wah Pedals: Guitar Emotions

Updated on June 8, 2013

What is a Wah Wah Pedal?

For the unitiated, a wah wah pedal is a musical accessory for the guitar and it can create some great tonal effects for a variety of styles - blues, metal,soul, funk, country, surf etc.

The wah wah pedal is as versatile as your imagination will allow and has been used by many well known guitarists since it's invention in the mid 1960s, including greats Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.

So what is it? Well basically it's just large footsize pedal attached via an electric cable to a guitar, which, when stepped on gives you a waaaah sound.When you step down it makes an open wah and when you heel it, ie; bring your toe up, you get something like a woo sound. From this you can do long sweeping counts, short foot taps in time with the music, neck bends and a whole lot more and it's great fun to experiment, creating your own original embellishents. Plus a wah wah pedal adds emotion - it's like the sound of feelings coming right through your guitar.

Contemporary Vox Wah Wah
Contemporary Vox Wah Wah

Vox Wah Wah

The wah wah was invented by a guy called Brad Plunkett, who at the time, in the mid sixties was working for the Warick Electronics Thomas Organ Company.

The company had bought out Vox and was working on a redesign of the Vox Super Beatle guitar amplifier and while playing around with tone control, Plunkett accidentally stumbled on the wah wah sound, while attempting to emulate a trumpet. Legend has it those nearby raced into the studio to see where that great sound was coming from - among them was engineer Del Casher, who was the first to suggest the sound travel through a pedal rather then the circuit and in 1967 Del composed and released the first record to feature a wah wah pedal.

The effect was commercially marketed by Vox in 1966 and named the Vox wahwah and Thomas Organ, who gave it the name Cry baby, since it sounded like a baby's penetrating wail.

Vox V845 Wah Wah pedal is a contemporary version of the original wah wah pedal and has been based on the original specs of that first sixties version. As a battery saver, the V845 is fitted with an AC adapter. The original Vox wahwah was a big seller in the 60s and has featured on some of the most iconic album recordings of the era.

Ga Ga over Wah Wah

Musicians of the sixties embraced the wah wah sound as it opened up a whole new avenue for expression - in fact it's hard to imagine that decade without wah wah.Guitarist's could create their own mood and emotion and thus develop their own style further.

Unlike a guitar's regular tone control, the wah wah pedal has an active circuitry that emphasises the highs at one end and the lows at the other. One you get the hang of the pedal you can experiment with a host of different effects, combining them to emulate the sounds of great guitarist's or creating your own original sounds, as Jeff Beck did with his wah wah riffs in I aint Superstitious, where the guitar actually seems to talk.

Dunlop original Cry Baby
Dunlop original Cry Baby

Dunlop Cry Baby

The Cry Baby is legendary and is the best selling wah wah pedal of all time and in the 60s was favoured by greats like Hendrix, Clapton, Dave Gimour and many other top guitarists.

Dunlop copied it early, from the original Thomas Organ Cry Baby Wah Wah pedal, as that company had somehow failed to register the name as a trademark.

In addition to its historical cred and 100K ohm Hot Potz potentiometer, the Cry Baby is really a solidly constructed pedal made form heavy die cast , so it should see you through for years. The ECB-003 AC adapter is an optional extra. It also comes with a 12 month gaurantee.

Though it make lack some of the bells and whistles of rival wah wahs, this pedal offers the traditional wah wah sound for that authentic 60s feel and vibe - sounds great.

Vintage Wah Wah Pedals

In recent years Wah Wah pedals have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity and many enthusiastic musicians search out older models, which have unique effects and sounds. A vintage Wah Wah can help recreate the particular sound of of a band or era.

For those interested, Guitar Player magazine has a comprehensive review of:

21 Distortion Pedals

Del Casher


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